by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am
The death of Daily Racing Form's longtime executive columnist Joe Hirsch has brought an outpouring of tributes from people throughout the Thoroughbred industry who remembered him for his dedication to the sport and to his profession, and for his friendship.

“Joe Hirsch was much more than just the dean of American racing writers for half a century. He was a global ambassador for the sport, a mentor to two generations of journalists, and probably the most universally respected figure in the world of horseracing.”
Steven Crist, publisher, Daily Racing Form

“He was a great, great man and a racing journalist the likes of which we will never see or read again.”
Charles Hayward, president and CEO, New York Racing Association and former president and CEO of Daily Racing Form


“Joe was a great ambassador for our sport. He had the best interests of horse racing at heart at all times. He was a true student of the game and it was always a privilege to spend time with him.” Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman, the Jockey Club

Joe was a friend of the Breeders' Cup, an inspired advocate for the sport he loved and, most importantly, a true gentleman.” Greg Avioli, president and CEO, Breeders' Cup

“There has been no more respected figure in horse racing over the last 50 years than Joe Hirsch. He eloquently brought our sport to the hearts and minds of millions, and those of us who had the good fortune to know Joe personally have an even greater sense of what racing has lost today.” Alex Waldrop, president and CEO, National Thoroughbred Racing Association

“Keeneland joins the entire Thoroughbred industry in mourning the death of Joe Hirsch.  Joe devoted his entire life in the tireless effort to chronicle the sport, traveling throughout the world and making the racetrack with the next major event his temporary home.  No one has ever done it better—he was so good he made it look easy.  I'll miss his visits, friendship, dinner together and most of all our conversations filled with his stories.” Nick Nicholson, president and CEO, Keeneland

“To many the image of Joe Hirsch was racing's national journalist, with his trademark dark glasses, the deliberate walk and the diminutive notebook in his left hand documenting irrefutable quotes.  He redefined the role of sports journalist, becoming the most widely read turf columnist in the world, respected by his peers, revered and admired by his colleagues, truly one of racing's treasures and one of its finest ambassadors.”
James E. Bassett III, former chairman of the board, Keeneland

“He was one of the gentlemen of the sport, one of the most thoughtful men I've ever known. He had a difficult time with his health for many years, and he never, ever complained. Every time I feel a little down or things aren't going the way I'd like them to, I think about Joe and how he handled his life. He carried on with extraordinary class. … He would often send me Joe's Stone Crabs packed in dry ice from that restaurant in Miami Beach. When I'd visit him in Miami we'd go there for dinner, and it was a place that supposedly didn't take reservations. But the waters would part whenever Joe walked in.” Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president, Oak Tree Racing Association

“Joe Hirsch earned and deserved universal respect and admiration throughout Thoroughbred racing.  Owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, grooms, racing executives, members of the media, and lovers of racing around the world revered Joe for his immense knowledge, remarkable talent and positive impact on our sport. But those who had to good fortune to know or simply meet him through the years will remember Joe for the incredible kindness he displayed to all who crossed his path. Countless journalists benefited from his guidance and counsel, and the Kentucky Derby and Thoroughbred racing are stronger because of the work and influence of Joe Hirsch. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby family are deeply saddened by his passing, and mourn that his insightful and impassioned voice is now quiet. One of Joe's most memorable sentences came in a Daily Racing Form piece on five-time 'Horse of the Year' Kelso in which he wrote: 'Once upon a time there was a horse named Kelso … but only once.' Let us borrow Joe's brilliant phrase and proclaim today that once upon a time, there was a special journalist and man named Joe Hirsch … but only once.” Steve Sexton, president, Churchill Downs

“Joe Hirsch founded and served as the first president of the National Turf Writers Association, but more importantly, was a role model and mentor to so many of its members. Joe set a high standard of excellence that so many in the industry admired and while we are deeply saddened by Joe's passing, we are tremendously honored to be the recipient of his guidance, generosity, and leadership.” Tom Law, president, National Turf Writers Association

“One thing I can say about Joe, and I think this is universally accepted. He didn't have one person in this world who would say a bad word about him, and there's not many people you can say that about.” Peter Blum, Thoroughbred owner and breeder, who in 2003, the year Hirsch retired from Daily Racing Form, named a Giant's Causeway colt after his longtime friend

“Joe always brought out the good in the sport. All of his columns, no matter what happened, he always looked for the good in a horse or in the people in racing. There's only one other writer I could compare him to: (the late) Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times. They were both listeners. The first time I was interviewed by either one of them, I'd tell them my story, and they'd only write down a few words here and there. But when the papers came out the next day their stories got everything and were great. Guys like that are really missed. Joe set the bar for all the other writers in racing, and it hasn't been the same since he left.”
Bob Baffert, trainer

“He was a special guy. I was always flattered whenever he wrote an article about me and quoted me because he always made me sound a lot better in print. He'll be missed by me, and more importantly, by horse racing.”
Shug McGaughey, Hall of Fame trainer

“He had such a wealth of knowledge about the history of the game, and it was always fascinating to listen to him talk. When I was on the Triple Crown trail with Seattle Slew, he'd come around and interview me. I'd pick his brain, and after about a half-hour he'd say, 'Wait a minute – I'm supposed to be interviewing you!' He put so much color into his stories. He expected things to be done first class, and that's the way he wrote. He will be irreplaceable.”
Billy Turner, trainer of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew

“I wish we had more turf writers like Joe Hirsch.  He was a class act all the way and a tremendous historian of the sport.   He knew horses inside and out.”
William Badgett, Jr., trainer

 “We've lost a good man.  It's very sad.  Racing has lost such a knowledgeable man, who was always fair and accurate … and always a gentleman.” Jorge Velasquez, Hall of Fame jockey


“I don't have one specific memory – he was such an icon.  Even before I rode I'd look forward to reading his column to see what he had to say about the best 2- year-olds, or Derby prospects, or whatever champions he was writing about that day.  He wrote about racing in such a passionate, articulate, thorough way and it was always a pleasure to read his thoughts and interpretations on what was going on in the game.  Then, when I started riding and you'd get the call that Joe Hirsch wants to interview you it was so special and humbling that he'd pick you as a topic.” Richard Migliore, jockey

“I just remember being a kid and seeing PEB's drawing of Joe–it was the best, really lifelike and it stands out when I think of him.”
Mike Luzzi, jockey

“He was the greatest that Joe Hirsch.  He and Charlie Whittingham used to use this expression—'where Molly hid the peaches.'  I'd always ask him what it meant and he'd never tell me.  Guess now we'll never know.” Sonny Taylor, NYRA placing judge

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